Rand could weaken to under R15/$ if Nene resigns, say analysts

The rand could fall below R15/$ if President Cyril Ramaphosa accepts Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s resignation.

News24 reported earlier on Monday that Nene has asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties in the wake of his testimony at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry that he met multiple times with the Gupta family. It is still not known how the President will respond. 

The local currency opened at R14.85/$ on Monday morning and was trading close to 1% weaker at R14.89 by 09:15, after reaching a low of R14.98 to the greenback.

Musa Makoni, a trading specialist at GT247, said the rand's weakness was mainly due to global influences, such as high US Treasury yields and a strong dollar.  But Makoni added that if Nene’s resignation were accepted, the currency could weaken further.

According to News24, Nene has requested to resign in a phone call to the president. This comes after revelations in his testimony at the State Capture Inquiry last week that he had met with the Gupta family several times between 2009 and 2014.

Commenting on these revelations at a briefing on Sunday, DA MP John Steenhuisen said Nene's meetings with the Guptas had been a “blow” to his credibility, especially ahead of the mini budget to be delivered later this month.

“It’s not the act itself that’s harmed him, it’s the cover up that’s harmed him […] people are angry about previous denials that had taken place,” Steenhuisen said.

This is a difficult position for the country, which needs to reassure markets which are looking for stability, said Steenhuisen.

Makoni told Fin24 that replacing Nene would introduce market uncertainty. “If he resigns, it will bring the question of who can fill his shoes,” he said. 

Wichard Cilliers of TreasuryONE said in a morning note to clients that the timing of Nene’s possible resignation would be far from ideal, given that the mini budget is set to be delivered on October 24. “We need stability in order to sort out the ailing fiscus,” he said.

Bianca Botes, corporate treasury manager at Peregrine Treasury Solutions, estimated that 20% of the rand’s weakness were due to local factors, which remain “worrisome”. 

Botes expects the local currency to trade in a range to be between R14.78 and R14.99 to the greenback, while analysts from NKC Economics expect a trading range of between R14.70/$ and R15.00/$.

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